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A few images of the “Quality Bike Corridor” Edinburgh

A few images of the “Quality Bike Corridor” Edinburgh

I my last post I gave a few thoughts on the “Quality Bike Corridor” in Edinburgh, but I forgot to add any images. So here are a few, just count the number of parked cars…

Quality Bike Corridor?
Note the way the cycle lane takes cyclists around the outside of the parked cars and down the left side of queuing traffic which may turn left at the lights. There is no way this can be considered to be best practice.

Quality Bike Corridor?

Quality Bike Corridor?

Quality Bike Corridor?

Note that only two of the motor vehicles shown above are parked legally, the one in the first picture and the yellow car.

The Quality Bike Corridor (QBiC) does have a 20mph speed limit along only a short section:

Southern end of the 20mph limit:
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking south (end of 20mph)
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking north (start of 20mph)

Northern end of the 20mph limit:
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking south (start of 20mph)
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking north (end of 20mph)

It is worth noting that at the northern end of the 20 mph zone stops short of an existing accident black sport, so not the best place to encourage drivers to accelerate.

Yet the roads with the highest rates of Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) are not given 20mph speed limits:
RTAs south Edinburgh
From ITO road casualties UK.

Thoughts on the Quality Bike Corridor

Thoughts on the Quality Bike Corridor

This post first appeared on the STV Edinburgh website, as part of a series of articles for Bike Week. I have slightly rewritten and expanded it here.

As I have said before, cycling is a good thing, as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion, it can boost local economic activity. It is healthy – active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer and make fewer calls on the NHS. In addition, people who use active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the future savings in health costs alone make worthwhile). Apart from all that, over distances of up to 10Km cycling is fast and efficient, it is also fun and increasingly fashionable. So it is no wonder that many people want to be able to use bicycles to make short journeys. Surveys have shown that up to 60% of ordinary people would like to be able cycle for transport on short journeys, at least some of the time. So what is stopping them? The answer is simple, they don’t feel it is safe to ride on the roads, and this is the major barrier to increasing cycling rates across Scotland.

When I first heard about the proposed Quality Bike Corridor between the King’s Buildings and George IV Bridge, I thought this was a great idea. I have been cycling in Edinburgh for nearly 20 years and must have ridden parts of this route thousands of times, starting from when I was a student at the King’s Buildings. Over the years I have noticed a number of changes around the city. In the early years there were the new, and then controversial, cycle lanes painted red at the side of the road, then the introduction of Advanced Stop Lines (ASL) at traffic lights. Over that same period, the annual counts of commuter cyclists carried out by the SPOKES Cycle Campaign, have risen steadily.

However, cycling as a share of all means of transport for all short journeys remains low. Why isn’t utility cycling taking off, when cycling is apparently booming and the City of Edinburgh Council has committed 5% of its transport budget to cycling? Part of the problem is the “dual network” approach. This is based on the idea that people will start off on the “family network” which is “catering for less confident cyclists” and then, as they gain confidence (and maybe have some training), they will “graduate” to using the “Quality Bike Corridors” as part of the “cycle-friendly city”. According to the council’s Active Travel Action Plan this is to “include on street cycle facilities such as cycle lanes, enhanced cycle parking/loading restrictions and marketing” [sic]. Here is the central flaw, this “cycle-friendly city” is aimed at “confident cyclists” who are happy to ride on the roads with the existing motor traffic. These are the people who are already cycling, not the ordinary people who want to cycle but don’t at present because they don’t feel safe. If the aim is to create a truly cycle-friendly city, then there would be no need for a “family network”, all areas of the city would be accessible by people riding bicycles, as almost all Dutch cities and many more cities across Europe are.

The section of the Active Travel Action Plan which deals with cycling recognises that “safety, and perceived safety, especially on busy roads” is a barrier to cycling. However, given the rising rates of pedestrians and cyclists injured on the roads across Scotland as a result of collisions with motor vehicles (Provisional results from Transport Scotland for 2011), it is time for a change in approach. We need to look to best practice internationally. In the Netherlands, where 25% of trips are by bicycle, the risk of being killed or seriously injured is over seven times lower than in the UK. The “dual network” approach does not in any way fit with the Dutch approach, which is based on the concept of Sustainable Safety. In order to make cycling as a means of transport attractive to the greatest number of people, the routes available need to be direct, pleasant and safe. It should not be required to make a choice between direct and safe, however this is implicit in the dual network approach. Only on the “family network” is there any form of separation or traffic calming (i.e., on quite back roads, which are quiet because they don’t offer direct easy access to anywhere). This is the central flaw to the “dual network” approach, that it is designed to avoid making any changes to the road environment which might “inconvenience” the motorist. For this reason, we have painted bike lanes which go around car parking bays on the “Quality Bike Corridor” (aka QBiC or QBC), rather than removing the parking on main roads. In Paris before introducing their Vélib cycle share scheme 7000 car parking spaces were removed and cycle lanes introduced, the world did not end, the city did not grind to a halt.

I am not alone in being disappointed that the first “Quality Bike Corridor” has made no attempt to provide a separated on-street cycle lane, or cycle priority junctions (no, ASLs just don’t cut it). Many of the 3,000 people who Pedalled on Parliament feel the same disappointed that a more ambition approach wasn’t tried. There are cities in the UK which are experimenting with separated cycle infrastructure, among them Birmingham, Manchester, London and even Glasgow! Although none of these have cycling rates approaching those of cycle-friendly cities on mainland Europe. No, the Edinburgh approach is simply not good enough, we need change, we need to move forward and learn from our near neighbours across the North Sea.

Addendum: I have added a new post with images from the “Quality Bike Corridor”.

Thoughts on the A9

Thoughts on the A9

A resent blog post by Lesley Riddoch set me thinking about the A9.

The one thing that really makes the A9 a dangerous road is the almost total absence of enforcement the rules of the road. There are only two fixed speed cameras (between Perth and Inverness), police patrols are rare, and there are no average speed cameras. If the Scottish government is really serious about improving safety, average speed cameras along the entire length would be the first step. It is not the foreign tourist that are causing the vast majority crashes and near misses on the A9, it is vehicles with UK plates are being driving aggressively. Calls for the duelling of the A9 are not about safety, they are about allowing people to drive faster and cut journey times by as much as 12 minutes (if the drivers stay within the speed limits).

As for railways before the 1960’s there was an extensive network of railways across the highland. The lost of these railways was a major setback to the economic development of the highlands. This combined with a steady lost of bus services is driving ever increasing levels of car dependency in an economically fragile area. This coupled with an ageing population is just storing up greater problems for the future.

Since the start of the first hydro schemes, Scotland has prided its self on the generation of renewable electricity. Trains and trams can be very effectively run on electricity. The electric car on the other hand, despite having been around for over a century has never taken off, and probably never will do. Building big shiny new roads is not the best solution for the Highlands, putting back the railways would be far more sensible. Sadly, instead of the sensible option, we are seeing cuts in rail investment and a massive amount of funding for the duelling of the A9 being brought forward.

Of on street parking and bus/cycle lanes

Of on street parking and bus/cycle lanes

Earlier this week I wrote up a few thoughts on the Spokes Hustings last week, where I commented on my memory of Cllr Gordon Mackenzie’s replies on the issue of Pay & Display parking in bus lanes and cycle lanes. Since then, Cllr Mackenzie has left a comment on my post to correct my memory and continue the debate. So I thought I would take the opportunity to write a new post.

Cllr Gordon Mackenzie wrote:

Kim

I didn’t say we couldn’t remove parking but I think the point I was making about local shops depending for some of their income on passing car trade has been covered by the first contributor. I read your comments about they traders in Gorgie but if you pop down to the shops near you on Newington Rd you will find that many recently suffered substantially from the loss of trade during the gas mains works in the area which removed quite a lot of the parking. I’ve no doubt several would go out of business if that became the norm. Similarly if you’ve been to a GP practice, like the one near me on Dalkeith Rd you’d appreciate that while many patients could do with a bit more exercise there are also a substantial number who have impaired mobility and a ban on parking would mean that they’d have to move practice or require more home visits.

However I wasn’t arguing in either scenario that we couldn’t change or improve the situation for cyclists, I was mainly highlighting the fact that it’s not as easy as saying ‘lets remove parking’. There would undoubtedly be significant consequences for many of those involved. Loss of trade could mean a business becoming unprofitable and a loss of jobs. Having to move GP could involve more travel, loss of a key relationship and additional costs to the NHS. These are not insurmountable obstacles but they’re not easy or cost free to remedy. That’s why I’m not sure that a parking restriction is always the best option.

Thanks for your comments, Gordon.

Interesting that you should mention the effects of the recent gas mains works on traders on Newington Rd. As I live nearby, I did go to some of these shops while these works was in progress. It was very noticeable at the time that pedestrian access was also hampered by the work going on. Firstly, all of the temporary traffic signs were placed on the pavement, causing obstructions to pedestrians (including wheelchairs, prams etc.). Also, the pedestrian crossing at Salisbury Place was not available because of the temporary lights which had no provision for pedestrians. There is a Pelican crossing 150m north on Newington Road. However, from experience, using this Pelican crossing was more hazardous when the works were going on, as drivers were choosing to ignore the red light and driving straight through during the pedestrian phase. I had a number of near misses and I know of other people who had similar experiences. Given these difficulties in pedestrian access, it is not surprising that there was a decline in trade during the gas mains works, and it can hardly be attributed to the loss of a few parking spaces alone.

Neither the GP practice nor the dental surgery I use have parking outside, yet both are busy. So, here again, parking is not the key issue that it is often made out to be. You say that a parking ban would impact on patients with “impaired mobility”, but Blue Badge holders are permitted to park on yellow lines, and disabled-only bays could easily be provided (as long as they were enforced). Since July of last year I have had to make regular trips to the Royal Infirmary, all of these I have made by bus, including the initial trip to A&E, to have my broken collarbone diagnosed. I have a friend who broke his leg playing football, he travelled to all of his outpatient appointments by bus, too. The suggestion that access to a car is needed in order to receive medical treatment really is a red herring.

People need to have a choice of transport, but the over-emphasis on making it easy to use a car, as the default, leads to car dependence and a closing-off of opportunities for active travel. International experience has shown that restricting parking is effective at increasing active travel, and quality of life for those living in urban areas. It is very noticeable that places which often are voted as being “the best place to live” are those where walking and cycling are easy and car access is restricted. This doesn’t mean that people living in these places own fewer cars or have less access to cars, just that they use them far less often.

If you are serious about reducing congestion and air pollution in the city, for the benefit of all, then you really do have to grasp the nettle and reduce car parking. Again, looking at international evidence of places where these changes have been applied, they didn’t always have high approval rating when they were first brought in. But after a couple of years when people had experienced the benefits of having more people-friendly streets, they have proved to be highly popular. To quote Jeremy Clarkson (I never thought I would find myself doing this) writing about CopenhagenThe upshot is a city that works. It’s pleasing to look at. It’s astonishingly quiet. It’s safe. And no one wastes half their life looking for a parking space. I’d live there in a heartbeat.” This is the way I would like Edinburgh to be!

With regard to the “Quality Bike Corridor”, there is no reason why drivers have to be able to park on the main road. They could be provided with a small number of short term Pay & Display parking bays in nearby side streets and walk the last few metres. If active travel is to become the default means of transport, it must be made the easier option, with driving being a less attractive option. Current policies are having the opposite effect, this needs to change for the benefit of everyone.

Thoughts on the Spokes Hustings

Thoughts on the Spokes Hustings

I was at the Spokes Hustings the other night and since then I have had a number of thoughts about it churning through my mind, and so have decided to write them down here. It was good to hear that all parties support the commitment of 5% of the transport budget to cycling, which was a good start. Generally there was a positive attitude to cycle friendly policies, which is hardly surprising as these councillors were trying to capture the cycling vote.

However, there were other things which stuck in my mind, such as Cllr Gordon Mackenzie (Lib Dem) saying that the Council couldn’t remove on street parking from bus lanes or the “Quality Cycle Corridor” because people depend on their cars to drive to the local shops. What? The reason we have so many local shops is because Edinburgh still has people living in the city centre, and they shop in places within walking distance. If the on street parking was removed from Causewayside, the antiques shops would still be there, it is just the residents of the Grange and Newington would have to walk 5-10 minutes to get there. The reason those shops are there is because the customers live nearby and not because there is on street parking. Come on, Cllr Mackenzie, have you actually gone and looked at other cities which are pedestrian and cycle friendly? One thing you will find is that they have lots of local shops, because people can walk and cycle to them. It is the places where people are car dependent that don’t have local shops, which is the result of failed transport policies making people car dependent and causing the death of the High Street in clone towns across the UK. Also, Cllr Mackenzie, when you say people have to be able to drive to their local Health Centre, have you talked to the doctors about this? Increasingly the medical profession is waking up to the benefits of active travel, and encourage people to be more active in their daily lives. This includes walking to their local Health Centre. It should be noted though that Cllr Mackenzie is a regular cyclist and the current Transport Convener of the City of Edinburgh Council, who has done much to support cycling in Edinburgh.

Then there was Cllr Lesley Hinds (Lab), who said that she thought cycling was a good idea, but doesn’t cycle herself because she doesn’t feel safe. The interesting thing here was the reaction of avid cyclists, who all told her that cycling was safe and completely ignored what she was trying to tell them. This is important, as it has a dramatic effect on policies to increase cycling: we are constantly being told that it is safe to cycle, and that we just have to share the roads. We are told that we just need to train more people to cycle with the motor traffic, and cycling will become even safer. Then, once a critical mass of cyclists on the roads has been achieved, we can have more infrastructure to accommodate cycling on the roads. Well, we have had cycle training for children for 60 years, and yet we haven’t seen this increase in safety, just a decline in the numbers cycling and walking as transport on a regular basis. We need to learn to listen to people like Cllr Hinds who say they would cycle as transport, if they felt it was safe. It is the provision of infrastructure to make cycling feel safer and more convenient that increases cycling rates, and not the other way around. Experience from other countries has shown that, when safe and convenient routes are provided between places people want to go, cycling rates increase rapidly.

Instead, British transport policy has historically been aimed at making driving easier, and at the same time taking away choice by making it harder to walk and cycle, through measures such as “traffic smoothing” and “cycle networks” which look like they have been designed by a spider on caffeine. This is something we need to turn around. The one piece of news Cllr Hinds gave the meeting, that came as a surprise to all (including Cllr Mackenzie), was that TIE (the company set up to run Edinburgh’s trams) intends to renege on its promise to carry bikes on the trams when they start running. This would be a very foolish move on their part.

Next on the list was Cllr Cameron Rose (Con), a long time Spokes member and regular utility cyclist. Given that description, you might expect Cllr Rose to be supportive of active travel, but he wasn’t keen on the idea of spending money on it, well he is a Tory. More oddly, he seemed to think that we should “experiment” with different solutions, rather that using existing best practice from places where cycling is common, and where they have already carried out these “experiments” and found out what works. The reason given by Cllr Rose was that the Netherlands are flat, an argument which I really can’t get my head around, what has topography got to do with safe junction design and the principles of separation? If he was trying to suggest that high levels of cycling can only be found in places that are flat, he should try telling that to people in cities throughout the Alps where cycling rates are high. I have personally seen this in Salzburg, Innsbruck and Bozen/Bolzano, these places are not exactly flat. I do however like his strong support for the idea of having a bicycle share scheme in Edinburgh, similar to those found in cities across the world.

I don’t remember Cllr Steve Burgess (Green) saying anything I could disagree with, indeed he seemed to have read the Pedal on Parliament manifesto and was supporting all the things we are calling for. Then again, I would be seriously worried if the Greens weren’t supportive of Active Travel.

Finally there was Cllr Alasdair Rankin (SNP) who seemed a wee bit unclear as to just what the SNP policy on cycling is – he is not alone there, non of us are clear on that. He was, however, keen to take on board the need for change. I just wish Keith Brown MSP, the Transport Minister, was the same. Currently the SNP’s transport policy seems to be stuck somewhere in the 1980’s, building more roads without strategic thought for the future. For example, the new Forth road crossing has been designed with no provision at all for cycling or walking (which came as news to Cllr Rankin). At the end of the day, using the roads should be safe for all, and no one should have to take their life in their hands to get from A to B.

The one glimmer of hope on the SNP front comes from Marco Biagi MSP, whose response to the Pedal on Parliament manifesto I received today. He says: “The Pedal on Parliament manifesto is a set of practical and helpful proposals that set out very clearly the action that must be taken at all levels if cycling is to grow and flourish in Scotland.” Let us hope that he can persuade the rest of his party of this.

A proposed eight point manifesto for safer cycling

A proposed eight point manifesto for safer cycling

The Times has launched a public campaign and 8-point manifesto calling for cities to be made fit for cyclists:

  1. Lorries entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.
  2. The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.
  3. A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.
  4. Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.
  5. The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.
  6. 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.
  7. Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.
  8. Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.

Personally I find this a disappointing mishmash of ideas and lacking in ambition. I think that we can do better, so here is my version:

Active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, and it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the future savings in health cost alone make worthwhile).

  1. Commitment to cycling: Cycling is booming in Britain and said to be worth £3 billion to the economy. But while in the Netherlands some £10-£20 per head is invested in cycling. In Scotland it is nearer £2-£3. In England the best achieved was the 2005-2011 Cycling City and Towns project, which invested around £10 per head and achieved significant growth in everyday cycle use. The Scottish government should invest 5% of its £2bn annual transport budget in active travel (cycling and walking). This is exactly in line with its own ‘Low Carbon Scotland’ proposal for £1.32bn over 11 years, and with the per-head figure which The Netherlands spends on cycling alone. Scottish local authorities should invest, from their own internal transport budgets, a proportion at least equal to their existing commuter cycling modal share, as the City of Edinburgh Council has done. Bearing in mind that the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland aim is “By 2020, 10% of all journeys taken in Scotland will be by bike.
     
  2. Improved provision for cycling: this must include a commitment to reviewing major roads and junctions, prioritising dedicated space for cyclists where speed limits are not already 20mph and ensuring quality infrastructure which ensures safe reintroduction of cyclists to the highway where relevant. This should be done following best practice from places which have a cycling modal share of 20% or greater. Local Transport Note (LTN) 2/08 and Cycling by Design 2010 should be scrapped as neither is truly fit for purpose (although the latter is better than the former). The important thing is to get rid of the concept of “dual networks” cycling should be safe for everyone, not just the quick and the bold. The Dutch and the Danes have developed their best practice over 30 years of trial and error, we have the opportunity to learn what works and avoid repeating the mistakes.
     
  3. Slower speeds: in residential and built up areas. There are significant road safety benefits with a 20 mph speed limit. National government must commit to supporting, encouraging and funding local authorities to follow many of their peers and make the change to 20mph.
     
  4. Encouragement of cycling – Smarter Travel Choices. National Government and local authorities must commit to supporting safe and active travel within a wider programme of ‘smarter choices’ investment. By committing to this policy direction, we are more likely to see a joined-up package of measures. A good example of this is the “Better way to work” campaign which was run in Edinburgh last year.
     
  5. Improved road traffic law and enforcement: Traffic law must do more to protect the most vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, children and older people. In addition, traffic policing teams much be given more resource to ensure that existing laws can be enforced more effectively. Sentencing must be appropriate when drivers cause harm, and fines should be related to income as following the Swiss model.
     
  6. A focus on Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs): heavy lorries are associated with a disproportionately high risk of death or very serious injury to cyclists and pedestrians. Despite being just 6% of road traffic, lorries are involved in around 20% of all cyclists’ fatalities. Government policies must ensure a commitment to the roll-out of a comprehensive package of measures to reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians.
     
  7. A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training: to include better information, provision and training for all road user types including cyclists from an early age.
     
  8. Improved data: the information that records how many people are cycling is very poor at the national level and inconsistent at the local level. This makes it difficult to monitor what is happening and which interventions have greatest impact. At a minimum, counts should be carried out twice a year using standardised protocols for data collection and handling. Where possible, electronic counters with displays should be used to count the number of cyclists passing certain routes. This both raises awareness and creates a community feeling among cyclists, as well as being a good evaluation instrument to monitor the success of the project.

If these eight points were to be taken on board and fully implemented, we could make this a happier and healthier country.

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A message to Edinburgh Councillors on 2012/13 transport budget [Final update]

A message to Edinburgh Councillors on 2012/13 transport budget [Final update]

Following Edinburgh City councillors taking a remarkable decision on cycling investment in the Council 2012/13 budget, which set a completely new standard for other councils. In which they decided that 5% of of the transport capital budget will be invested in cycling infrastructure and projects. I decided to send a message to my local councillors (via write to them) to show my support and make a few suggestions for the future:

Dear Gordon Mackenzie, Steve Burgess, Cameron Rose and Ian Perry,

I am writing to express my support for the Council’s decision to allocate a minimum of 5% of transport spend to cycling. It is good to see this progress towards achieving Council’s Charter of Brussels commitments of increasing cycling to at least a 15% of the modal split of all trips by the year
2020.

Active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, it can boost local economic activity, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, and it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the future savings in health cost alone make worthwhile).

Now that the money has been committed to boosting active travel, please ensure that it is spent on high quality infrastructural improvements. Cyclist dismount signs and routes just to encourage “leisure cycling” are a waste of money. We need to make all areas of the city safely accessible by bicycle and these cycle routes must go where people want to go. This means having safe and, if needs be, fully separated provision on primary routes, as this is the only way to encourage fewer car journeys.

Shared pavements are not acceptable to either pedestrians or cyclist and so waste money. London has shown that is possible to spend a lot of money on paint and get badly wrong. Glasgow has started to put in fully separated on street cycle tracks which have been descried as “one of the best examples” in the UK (I will be go to look at these on the 18th Feb on a study tour with the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain which you are welcome to join). If Glasgow can do it, then Edinburgh can do it better. Make the city accessible by bicycle and people will choose to cycle.

This is a great start, lets make Edinburgh a shining beacon to the rest of the UK. The is much talk increasing cycling rates in other cities (notable London which has spent so much and achieved so little) and The Times is run a high profile campaign to improve safety for cyclist. So now it the time for Edinburgh to show the way and show just what can be done.

Yours sincerely,

Kim Harding

These are the replies in order received.

Cllr. Cameron Rose (Conservative):

Kim,

Thanks for your email and all the comments it contained.

As for me I would like a Boris Bikes type scheme in Edinburgh as well. And will have it in the manifesto.

I generally support the moves to encourage greater cycling. I’m not sure if we’ve met at the traffic lights or the Bike Breakfast but I’m on the pragmatic end of the pro functional cycling lobby! That means for me personally about 1500 miles per year.

All read and noted.

Best wishes,

Cameron

So there we have a preview of Cllr. Cameron Rose’s manifesto. Personally I would also support having a bicycle share scheme in Edinburgh as this could do do much to encourage utility cycling, but it would also need some real improvements in cycle infrastructure in order to work profitably.

Cllr Ian Perry (Labour):

Thank you for your comments

Yours sincerely

Ian Perry

Cllr Steve Burgess (Green):

Dear Kim,

Thanks for your letter highlighting the importance of funding for cycling.

As you may be aware Green Councillors and MSPs have also consistently pushed at council and parliamentary level for a diversion of funds away from the private car towards spending on active travel. Alison Johnstone MSP and myself were at the recent rally outside the Scottish Executive to lobby the Government about its intention to reduce its funding.

Following several letters like yours, yesterday I raised the question of where the council funding would be spent with the Head of Transport. His response was that the funds would be channelled into the existing Active Travel Plan to bring forward projects that are currently unfunded.

I expressed the view to him that if the Council is serious about achieving the target of 15% of commutes by cycle by 2020, that we’d have to make a lot more people feel safer about taking to the roads on their bikes. Interestingly he said there’s a lot can be done but there has to be the political will. So please keep up the lobbying!

cheers
Steve

Cllr Gordon Mackenzie (Lib Dem):

Kim,

thank you for your e-mail. I was pleased with the outcome of the budget; not only the Cycling committment but also the additional funding for Schools, Older People and the Environment. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work but the Cycling element was definitely a highlight for me as well.

It’s fair to say the decision to allocate a minimum of 5% for Cycling (and make provision to increase by 1% annually) has been well received both locally and nationally. I was a bit disappointed Labour and the Conservative didn’t have something similar in their budget proposals (the Greens haven’t put forward a budget for a few years) but hopefully they will get behind the decision and respond to it in their manifestos for the forthcoming elections – it certainly something to press them on.

It’s also been good to see quite a number of supportive e-mails coming in since the decision. Cycling doesn’t have the profile given to car use so the more people who contact Councillors of all parties to support this initiative the better.

As for your suggestions on how we use the funding, I’m also keen to see the money is well spent and have been in touch with Dave (du Feu) since the decision was confirmed, to see about using the SPOKES network to get views. Dave has kindly referred me to a survey on priorities SPOKES did in 2009 which is a good starting point. I’ve also been following the chat on the Forums about priorities, I’ll use the Council’s Cycle Forum (which I Chair!) and perhaps use a focus groups approach with some cyclists, non-cyclists and businesses to get a wider range of views on what might work best for Edinburgh.

All in all I think the future for cycling in Edinburgh is even more positive, in light of this decision, and thank you once again for your support.

Regards
Gordon

The take home message from these replies is that our Councillors are willing to support an increase in cycling if they are encouraged to do so by the voters. It is up to us to keep asking for better facilities and send messages of support when they do move in the right direction. So don’t just sit there, write to them, politicians are there to serve us, the people.

Pre budget letter to list MSPs and replies (updated)

Pre budget letter to list MSPs and replies (updated)

Before the final Scottish budget debate and vote there were rumours that Finance Secretary John Swinney was “looking carefully” at “sustainable travel budgets”. I decided to take the advice of Spokes that a last-minute e-mail supporting a change-of-heart might still help, and sent the following e-mail to my list MSPs, using WriteToThem.

Dear Sarah Boyack, Margo MacDonald, David McLetchie, Alison Johnstone, Gavin Brown, Neil Findlay and Kezia Dugdale,

Active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, it
can boost local economic activity, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use
active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, and it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the
future savings in health cost alone make worthwhile).

So please keep up the pressure on John Swinney to reverse the severe planned cuts to active travel, which also represent a breach of the
promises in the SNP manifesto.

Your sincerely,

Kim Harding

So far I have received the following relies (in order received)-

Neil Findlay MSP (Labour):

Thanks Kim – I agree with what you say and the pressure will continue

Neil Findlay MSP for the Lothians

Alison Johnstone MSP (Green):

Dear Kim

Thank you very much for getting in touch on this important issue. The Scottish Green MSPs have consistently called for substantially increased spending on public transport and active travel within the Scottish Government’s transport budget. I believe the Government’s spending priorities are wrong, by prioritising an absurdly expensive second road bridge across the Firth of Forth ahead of other areas, such as active travel, that would be far healthier for people, better for the environment, and reduce costs and congestion.

Our most recent manifesto included a commitment to target 10% of the transport budget towards active travel. It is vitally important to ensure that those who wish to cycle are encouraged to do so and the provision of new and maintenance of existing cycle lanes will help progress this aim. Safe streets with well-maintained pavements are required if we wish to see an increase in those walking to work and education. Street furniture should be streamlined and safer routes to school should be in operation across the school estate.

I have, and will continue to do all I can to challenge the Government, so that money within Scotland’s budget flows in a direction that improves people’s health, livelihoods and our environment. To this end I have spoken about active travel, public transport and infrastructure within a number of Parliamentary debates. Indeed I used the example of cycling in a debate with John Swinney on the Autumn Budget Statement and the Scottish Economy. I also took part in a protest against the severe cuts to funding for cycling and walking projects in the Scottish Government’s draft budget, joining a bicycle rally outside St. Andrew’s House.

My colleague Patrick Harvie also raised this issue in recent budget debates, and a meeting with John Swinney.

Please be assured of my continued support on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Alison

Margo MacDonald MSP (Independent):

Dear Mr Harding,

Margo MacDonald MSP has received a large number of messages concerning funding for active travel initiatives. Unfortunately she is currently in hospital and will not be present for today’s debate.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Blackford
Secretary
Office of Margo MacDonald MSP

Sorry to hear that Margo, I hope you are able to leave hospital soon.

Gavin Brown MSP (Conservative):

Dear Mr Harding

The Scottish Conservatives are supportive of cycling and fully understand the wider benefits both to public health and the environment.

I have reviewed the draft budget and note that the budget line for ‘support for sustainable and active travel’ decreases in 2012/13 to £16m before increasing to £25m in 2013/14.

It is not clear to me why this budget line is slashed so heavily for the next financial year. I have asked my colleague Alex Johnstone, who sits on the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, to look into this and establish why it is happening.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me to voice your concerns.

Kind regards.
GAVIN BROWN MSP

Followed by (10/2/0212)

On Wednesday the Cabinet Secretary announced an extra £4million next year, £5m for 2013/14 and £4m for 2014/15.

This means next year’s Budget is still decreasing although subsequent years are better.

I haven’t yet worked out the exact percentages but I suspect you are correct about their breach of a manifesto commitment.

Kind regards

Gavin Brown

These last two replies from Gavin Brown are interesting, I shall post up any further replies as I receive them.

An open letter to Alex Salmond MSP on active travel

An open letter to Alex Salmond MSP on active travel

Dear Mr Salmond,

You may be aware that rather a lot of people are very upset with the proposed cuts to the proportion of transport spending that goes on active travel. Active travel is a great idea, as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, it can boost local economic activity, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use active ways of travel are more productive at work, take fewer sick days. Supporting active travel is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save everybody money (the future savings in health costs alone make worthwhile).

In your 2011 Holyrood SNP manifesto, you told us that your party was committed “to increase the proportion of transport spending that goes on low-carbon, active and sustainable travel”. I assume that you did actually read this document before adding your signature to it, so it is only reasonable to expect you to stand by the commitments you and your party made in it.

However, your Government’s current spending plans show that funding to enable more local journeys to be made on foot or by bike is set to be cut by a third. This will make it much harder for Scotland to achieve its transition to a low carbon economy, decarbonise our transport sector and ensure 10% of all journeys are made by bicycle by 2020. These aims have cross-party support, as they have great potential to bring additional social, environmental and economic benefits.

You are on record as saying that Scotland should be regarded as a Nordic nation, and you frequently hold up other small nations in Europe as examples of what an independent Scotland could be. So why not learn lessons from the Nordic countries on active travel? Denmark, Sweden and Norway clearly show the way, they are actively investing in this concept and are reaping the rewards. It is not just the Nordic countries, The Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland are also embracing the benefits of active travel. These projects have been shown to have the highest Cost Benefit Ratio of all forms of transport investment.

I know that you consider the Scottish economy to be of prime importance, but poor air quality, poor public health, congestion and road safety are all major drags on the Scottish economy. The costs associated with all these ills can be reduced with a relatively small investment in active travel. So, go on, why not put your money where your mouth is?

Yours sincerely,

Kim Harding
A Scottish voter.

How do you get more people to ride bicycles

How do you get more people to ride bicycles

Having spent far too much time trying to find how other places achieved the high cycling rates they have, I have come to the conclusion that there are two factors which can increase cycling rates and make cycling feel ”normal”.

First: provide usable, high quality (although not necessary expensive) cycling specific infrastructure. Lot of people have bikes and will use them more if they feel it is safe and covenant to do so. This is something which is slowly coming about, with the emphasis on the word “slowly”, and is not helped by so much money being wasted on poor quality unusable cycling infrastructure, which is not fit for purpose. But that is for another post.

Then: emotional marketing, and this is something I would like to discuss in this blog post.

It is important to make riding a bicycle feel like a normal thing to do, for a number of reasons, not least because people are then more likely to support (and demand) the provision of usable cycling infrastructure.

A large proportion of the UK population knows how to ride a bicycle and indeed own at least one bike. Sadly, most bikes are at the back of a shed gathering dust. So at some stage in their lives people felt that riding a bicycle was an ordinary and normal thing to do. However, most adults no longer ride bicycles on a regular basis, and cycling as an adult is no longer seen as normal. For more on why this is the case, I recommend reading Dave Horton’s work on the fear of cycling.

So how do we overcome this fear of cycling? This is where emotional marketing comes in, which is about selling a lifestyle, making it look attractive and desirable. If you are wondering what this has to do with transport, well the motor industry spends about £830m a year on advertising, much of which can been seen as emotional marketing. They are selling a lifestyle: making driving seem ordinary and aspirational at the same time. However, the advertising rarely, if ever shows congestion, the roads are always empty, suggesting this should be the default way to travel. The reality, as we all know, is often very different, but the marketing makes people forget these downsides, and believe there is no other way.

Now obviously the cycling industry doesn’t have the same sort of money for advertising as the motor industry, and many in bike business just aren’t interested in cycling as transport (rather than sports & leisure), but increasingly bicycles are being used in lifestyle advertising. So things are starting to move our way. A number of cities in mainland Europe have started to run marketing campaigns to promote cycling as a means of urban transport, notably Bozen/Bolzano, Munich, and Copenhagen.

These broad promotional campaigns are intended to “sell” the idea of bicycling to those who currently don’t cycle, and to create a positive image for cycling among the public in general. In the same way that the motor industry uses advertising, this promotes a certain lifestyle, successful cycling campaigns appeal to the emotions of their audiences to sell the idea of cycling as a positive lifestyle choice. They use emotion-based sales pitches rather than logic-based ones, and this has generally been proven to be more successful. However, it is important to note that simply encouraging people to cycle more without making it easy to do and attractive will not succeed. These campaigns are not a substitute for providing good, usable, cycling infrastructure. They can, however, play an important role in encouraging people to ask for something better. It is about hearts and minds. After all, if people don’t know there is a better option than the one they have, they aren’t going to ask for it.

These city (or regional) marketing campaigns are well funded formal campaigns, but they aren’t the only form of emotional marketing of cycling going on. At a more informal level, there is the global “Cycle Chic” movement. This is a collection of blogs inspired by the original Cycle Chic blog (better known as Copenhagen Cycle Chic) which started from a single photo and has developed into an international consultancy. These blogs are mostly individual enterprises which aim to celebrate ordinary people, riding bicycles in ordinary clothes, in cities and towns around the world. The message they are sending is: look, there are people just like you riding bicycles as transport, if they can, so can you. As the strap line of Edinburgh Cycle Chic puts it, “Because you don’t have to wear Lycra”. It is the activity of these blogs, documenting people riding on the streets that have attracted the attention of the fashion industry, which is increasingly using bicycles as props in its advertising. If there is one industry which can out-spend all others and influence lifestyles, it is the fashion industry. It also has the power to reach people who are not engaged by traditional cycle industry marketing. In the UK, research carried out by Sustrans in early 2009 found that 79 per cent of British women never cycle at all, but 69% of those would cycle if they felt it was safe.

For some reason there are some existing cyclists in the English speaking world who find the Cycle Chic movement disturbing, but I am really not sure why. Cycling is an activity which just about everybody can do, and it has a lot of potential as everyday short range transport, so where is the problem in promoting it as such? Part of the problem may lie in the fact that cycling can mean many different things, as Graeme Obree says: “It’s is a sport, it’s a pastime and it’s a form of transport. You don’t football down to the shops”.

A lot of the opposition to disquiet about the idea of Cycle Chic appears to come from what can loosely be termed the “Lycra brigade”, who seem to feel that they are in some way being criticised by the emphasis on riding in ordinary clothes. They rather miss the point, Cycle Chic is not about them, no one is saying “Thou shalt not wear Lycra!”. The country which probably has more cycling clubs per head of population and the most fanatical cycle racing fans, is The Netherlands. This is also the country with more people cycling in normal clothes on an everyday basis, there is no reason why this should have a negative effect on cycling as sport.

For those who like to cycle fast or over long distances, there is a case for wearing technical clothing, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, this sort of cycling is never going to appeal to the masses, even the most popular mass participation sports in the UK only engage about 5% of the population each. However, everyone makes short journeys of the sort of distance which can easily be covered by bicycle, and the whole point of Cycle Chic is to show that anyone can ride a bicycle as a means of everyday transport, and that you don’t have to be an athlete to do it.

There are also a small number of people who criticise the idea of Cycle Chic on supposed “safety” grounds. Saying that people should wear hi-visibility clothing and cycle helmets while cycling in order to be safe, this is a totally false argument, as I have pointed out before. Sadly a number of these people seem to think that emphasising high-vis and helmets in cycling campaigns will somehow encourage people to take up cycling. The truth is it won’t, most people are risk adverse. Telling them that they will be safe if they dress in a certain way, while ignoring the real source of the problem, will simply put them off. This has been shown over the last 20+ years by the failure of these “safety” campaigns to raise cycling levels to those seen on the European mainland, and shows it is clearly time for a fresh approach in the UK. There are lessons to be learnt from our near neighbours across the North Sea, where they have shown that the cycling infrastructure and emotional marketing approaches work, especially if employed in tandem.

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